This is Harriet.
Harriet is a Kangaroo Island kangaroo, a subspecies of the western grey kangaroo, and she is a permanent resident of the Healesville Sanctuary, located about an hour's drive east of Melbourne. She's about three feet tall and a touch overweight, given that she spends her afternoons eating corn kernels and carrot slices from the palms of tourists. Harriet knows she's got a good thing going, and she has a practiced look of pleading sadness that will extract from even the hardest, most frigid soul a goofy grin and a few extra treats.
Harriet works it.
This is not Harriet.
The cut of meat shown here, rubbed with salt, pepper, and garlic and grilled to rare perfection, is the loin of a different, less fortunate kangaroo. I didn't meet this kangaroo. I don't know what species it was and I have no idea if it was male or female or if it had a name. The loin itself was a treat -- beefy, but also gamy and with a hint of grassiness. It pairs beautifully with shiraz, which Australians seem to draw from their wells.
And it was remarkably lean. There was hardly a vein or knob of fat to be found on the whole cut. That is why kangaroo can really only be enjoyed rare; cook it any longer and it will toughen and dry out into something horribly unpalatable. It's a meat that demands respectful treatment.
I'd built up the kangaroo-eating experience so much in my mind beforehand that it was sort of a shock when it managed to actually meet those stupidly inflated expectations.
There was also the strange component of having met and played with one of these exotic (to Americans) beasts prior to dining on one of its distant cousins. Living in the urban and suburban wilderness translates into few opportunities to meet one's meat. Seeing one of these bizarre and extraordinary animals and touching it and letting it nibble out of your palm, knowing that a different one will die somewhere distant and removed so that you can consume a portion of it, gives you pause. I was cavalier about it prior to the trip, but it actually had an impact on me.
Perhaps it's not enough to make one go vegetarian, but at the very least it compels you to make better choices, to seek out animal flesh that has been treated respectfully, and to do so in moderation.
Quality over quantity, and welfare above all. When you can actually put a face on your meat, and that face is Harriet's, it becomes an easy mantra to adopt.